One of the hottest tickets in town is to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s the newest of the institution’s museums, having opened its doors in 2016. While I heavily anticipated the opening, I started for service a few months before the grand opening. The internet and friends shared some of the hype and hoopla with the museum first opening. The long lines. The massive visitation numbers. The quality of the museum itself. The forethought put into its curation. I knew that I had to go. I thought that I’d just be able to walk up and get in. Passes are still needed to get in, as the museum is still drawing very high numbers of visitors.
One of the ways to get tickets is from the daily release of same day, timed passes (which are released around 0630 EST). The passes are free, and they are usually claimed within ten to fifteen minutes of release. I woke up early and tried to get passes for several days, but the internet decided it wasn’t my time. One day last week, I woke up a bit later and decided to check the website for passes. Lo and behold, there were some available. I successfully claimed a pass, got dressed, and had breakfast before excitedly biking down to the museum.
It was suggested that I start on the lowest level and work my way up. This allows for following the journey chronologically. The exhibit begins with history of African kingdoms and royalty, and includes snippets of everyday life for many West Africans whose descendants would be enslaved. Along the walls and in the background of the exhibit were the details of several slave ships that crossed the Atlantic. The museum does an amazing job of telling the story of the African journey to America including a highlight of a vessel carrying captured people that shipwrecked off the coast of South Africa. Walking through the levels allows one to walk through history with several artifacts on display. As I approached the end of the chronological history, I shed a few tears. There was something special about seeing parts of my life and childhood highlighted in a museum. Something special about hearing Tupac as the musical backdrop to the 1990s display.
For lunch, there is the Sweet Home Cafe. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s very tasty. I had the shrimp and grits, and it was delicious. Going up to the second floor, there was an exhibit on hip hop culture and an interactive experience with call and response stepping. I spent most of the day (> 5 hours) at the museum and didn’t get to see it all. I definitely plan to return once I get more passes. The above photos were taken during my day at the museum.
One of the things that we were warned about before finishing service in eSwatini was the overwhelming-ness of the grocery store. American grocery stores are filled with stuff. Some stuff is slightly different from other stuff. Sometimes, the differences are so slight that it’s difficult to tell why all of the stuff exists. With an abundance of options, it can be difficult to make a decision.
Then, there are the prices. Shortly after arriving in eSwatini, I walked through Swazi grocery stores converting everything into US dollars. Now that I’m back in DC, my mind readily converts everything into emalangeni. I’m sure I’ll break the habit eventually, but initially, the sticker shock is real.
Recently, I was walking through a local grocery store and thought, “why are there so many kinds of Oreos?” Cold brew coffee is a big thing now. As a less than occasional coffee drinker, I was perplexed by all of the bottled cold brew coffee on offer in the store. The above picture is of most of the yogurt options. So much choice!
Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – I felt like Andy Rooney, on his closing 60 Minutes segment, as I walked through the grocery store. Many times, just wondering, “why?”.
P.P.S. – Walking through the grocery store pales in comparison to walking through Wal-Mart.
I’ve been back in the states for just over a week now. It’s been a week catching up with family and friends, coordinating events and schedules, and other stuff related to readjustment. As I’ve moved around the city, it’s familiar in a different way. Businesses I used to frequent have moved. Luxury and boutique apartment buildings dot the city’s streets. Electric scooters and electric-assist bikes help to move Washingtonians around the city.
One of the things that I looked forward to most when I was coming back was November Project. For those who don’t know, November Project is a free fitness movement that started in Boston in November of 2011. Tribes in cities all over the world meet every Wednesday morning between 6 and 6:30 am, no matter what. I knew that in a city full of transients and constant change, November Project DC would be there. At the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday morning. The only requirement: just show up. I knew that I’d be greeted by cheery faces, high fives and hugs. I was late getting to the workout on Wednesday morning and it was much colder than SE Asia. But the tribe always makes it worth the early rising.
I was reminded of how out of shape I am. I was also reminded of how encouraging a group of people can be. It’s good to be back. The above photo was taken by Matt at the start of Friday morning’s workout.
In August, I started on a route heading back to DC. I chose the scenic route. After starting in Mumbai, my only plan was to journey eastward. And to eat good food. After three months of experiencing the food, sights, and sounds of south and southeast Asia, I finished the journey east. On this past Saturday, I landed stateside. After two and half years, I’m back!
It was strange getting on the flight from Beijing to DC. A sort of “this is it” feeling. No more living out of my backpack. Back to familiar settings that don’t seem super familiar. I am excited to be home for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years. We’ll see what the future has in store.
Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – I’d recommend the Mobile Passport app for free, expedited entry through US Customs at several approved sea and airports. It’s a cool alternative to Global Entry.
Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember).
I was discussing something on Twitter. I was engaging with followers and whatnot. I was also coming back from a trip. I was coming back to DC. I had mentioned this on my Twitter. Anyway, a day or so after I arrived in DC, a follower contacts me to talk about the topic I was discussing with my followers earlier. We engage in a dialogue and decide to meet up since we’re both in DC at the time.
I meet a young lady. She’s in her late teens or early twenties. We meet by the White House. It’s Obama’s daughter. (In this dream, the Obamas only have one daughter, and she looks like a mixture of Malia and Sasha.) We start chatting. She asks if I have ever been in the White House. I say that I haven’t. She invites me in.
The first thing I notice is that there is a massive bathroom. I think to myself that I should really ask to use the bathroom as it’ll probably be the most luxurious bathroom I ever have a chance to use. I don’t ask because I’m so excited that I don’t even have to go to the bathroom. Me and Obama girl are talking about life, and whatever we were discussing on Twitter as she gives me an impromptu tour of the White House. I’m only engaging partly because I’m so excited to be in the White House, and that the president’s daughter follows me on Twitter. Apparently, I’m too excited to even take pictures. We get to the museum part of the White House and I ask Obama girl if she’ll take a picture of me with a bust of Obama. She agrees. It’s the only picture I have from the visit and the occasion.
Later that evening, or the next day, I’m sitting in a car with my mother and brother. I’m explaining to them what happened my brother is in disbelief and telling me all of the reasons that it couldn’t have happened. My mother is listening and supportive. But I’m not sure she knows what Twitter is. I look up and we’re sitting outside of my grandmother’s house in NW DC.
There are officially less than ten days before I begin my Peace Corps service. With a little over a week left, it’s surreal.
I have (finally) packed my first piece of checked luggage. I am in the final stages of moving out of my home for past 6+ years. I made the decision that I will be getting rid of anything that is not going with me. There is nothing like a major move to be a reminder that I have entirely too much stuff. It feels great to be letting go of so much as I prepare for the next chapter in my life.
I have begun to share farewells with friends. I will be going to my final (for a while) November Project DC workouts this week. I will also be hosting a farewell happy hour hangout on Friday. Feel free to come workout and/or hang if you’re in the DC area.
I have been told that the next week will fly. I am excited for whatever the future holds.